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Haitians Protest Economic Crisis & Gang Violence, Demand U.S. Stay Out and Allow Domestic Solution

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Protests are growing in Port-au-Prince as thousands fill the streets to demand the U.S.-backed Prime Minister Ariel Henry resign after he announced he would raise fuel prices amid an already dire humanitarian crisis. Countries including the U.S. and Canada have sent military equipment to assist the Haitian police in cracking down on the unrest, and the U.S. has been pushing the United Nations Security Council to authorize a security mission, spurring more protests against foreign intervention. “We are seeing people really protesting on the street for the right to [a] sovereign solution to the issues that are happening, and they are saying 'no' to an armed invasion from the international community,” says Guerline Jozef, executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show looking at the crisis in Haiti, where protesters continue to demand the resignation of the U.S.-backed Prime Minister Ariel Henry and against the deployment of international troops to Haiti amidst a growing humanitarian crisis. A blockade of a key port in Port-au-Prince, the capital, by gangs has led to a critical shortage of fuel, food and water for millions of people.

Meanwhile, Haiti is fighting a new outbreak of cholera. On Monday, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called for a, quote, “armed action” to reopen the port.

SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES: It’s an absolutely nightmarish situation for the population of Haiti, especially Port-au-Prince. … I believe that we need not only to strengthen the police, strengthening it with training, with equipment, with a number of other measures, but that in the present circumstances we need an armed action to release the port and to allow for a humanitarian corridor to be established.

AMY GOODMAN: On Monday, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield pushed for the U.N. Security Council to authorize a non-U.N. international security mission to go to Haiti.

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: The second resolution we’re working on would authorize a non-U.N. international security assistance mission to help improve the security situation and enable the flow of desperately needed humanitarian aid.

AMY GOODMAN: But in the streets of Haiti, many protesters have condemned the United States for pushing to intervene again in Haiti. Protesters are also demanding the resignation of Ariel Henry, who has ruled since the assassination of Jovenel Moïse on July 7, 2021. This is former Haitian senator and presidential candidate Moïse Jean-Charles.

MOÏSE JEAN-CHARLES: [translated] Freedom. We are not in the states of the United States. We are not provinces of the United States. We are a country. We are a republic. They cannot give us orders. This time, we do not need them. If Ariel Henry does not resign and the bank officials don’t change their minds, we will make a revolution in the country.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by Guerline Jozef. She is co-founder and executive director of Haitian Bridge Alliance, which advocates for humanitarian assistance to Haitians and other Black immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa. Today she’s joining us from Mexico City, where she’s looking into the impacts of the Title 42 pandemic, Trump-era policy that’s been used to block at least 2 million migrants, including tens of thousands of Haitians, from applying for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. The Biden administration recently expanded Title 42 to begin expelling Venezuelan nationals.

Guerline Jozef, welcome back to Democracy Now! Before we move to what’s happening at the border, let’s talk about what’s happening in Haiti right now. You have the reports that chaos is engulfing the country, that it’s become so total, the social fabric is so torn, that the country is on the verge of collapse. And then you have the U.N. secretary-general calling for military action. Can you respond to the protests and the response?

GUERLINE JOZEF: Good morning, Amy. Thank you so much for having us.

What we are seeing in Haiti right now is extremely painful as a Haitian woman, as a Haitian American woman, to see how the country has been dipping into this abyss. And we have been in communications with civil societies in Haiti to understand what is needed on the ground. And they are telling us they need a Haitian-led solution in order for the country to get out of where we are right now — as you mentioned, Amy, rampant violence, gang violence, political turmoil, assassination of the president still not answered.

And we are seeing people really protesting on the street for the right to sovereign — a solution to the issues that are happening. And they are saying no to an invasion, no to armed invasion from the international community, because every time there is the so-called help invasion, that people go to Haiti, results in chaos. You also mentioned the cholera pandemic that is in the rise right now. And that itself is a result of the U.N. being in Haiti after the earthquake. So, we are seeing and hearing, and we are taking the time to understand what Haiti needs right now in how we move forward.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Guerline Jozef, I wanted to ask you — we keep hearing about this gang violence that is rampant throughout Haiti. But there are some Haitians in the U.S., as well as other radicals and socialists here in this country, who say that all these gangs are not alike, that the — for instance, that the FRG9, the Revolutionary Forces of the G9 Family, led by Jimmy Chérizier, are much more political, and they’re the ones that are dealing with this blockade of the port, whereas other gangs, like the GPEP, are actually part of — work with the Ariel Henry government and the police, and the United States seems to be more focused on FRG9. Could you talk about whether there are differences between these gangs? And what’s your sense of how the narrative is being shaped here in the U.S.?

GUERLINE JOZEF: Absolutely. One thing I want to clarify is the fact that this gang pandemic, this gang phenomenon, is not native to Haiti. It’s imported to Haiti. We are not used to this type of violence when it comes to gangs. This is a new system that is being put in place, or that has been put in place, to destabilize the country. I do not know who is supporting which gang. I do not know which activities are being supported either by outside sources or people within the government.

But what we are seeing right now is that people are fearful. We are seeing entire neighborhoods being displaced, in Martissant, in Croix-des-Bouquets, in Pétion-Ville, where we never had any violence before, that we are seeing all places in the country dealing with gang violence. And again, it is imperative that we understand the narrative that’s being shared, is that Haiti has never had to deal with this level of gang violence. This is new. This is backed by many different other outside forces.

And we must understand that we have to come to a resolve where we rid the country of violence, so people don’t have to flee. Right now we are seeing people fleeing by boat, either going to Puerto Rico, to the Bahamas, to Miami. And they are dying on the way here. We are seeing people fleeing from Haiti, making their way to the border in Mexico, because they cannot be at home. We are seeing the political turmoil, the gang violence, that are being financed or supported by whomever, that are creating a space where people cannot survive.

That is why when we speak to civil societies in Haiti, we understand that in order for us to move forward, there must be sustainability. There must be proper school. There must be proper hospital. There must be — the agriculture needs to be revived, in order for people to be able to be safe at home and not have to flee.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Can you talk about the Montana Accords, what they are, and the group that developed them following the assassination of Haiti’s former president in 2021?

GUERLINE JOZEF: I am not an expert of the Montana Accord, but what we understand is that over 500 groups, civil societies, political groups, have come together to come up with a solution that is led by Haitians to be able to find a way moving forward. What we understand from the Montana Accord, it is the only alternative we have right now to really getting ourselves out of the political turmoil, possibly having a safe transition where then we can move to a better space in Haiti. So, again, I am not an expert in the Montana Accord, but from understanding and speaking with many different groups and people who were involved, it seems to be a good alternative in order to move forward.

But what we are seeing is that there’s no real engagement between the Montana Accord parties, the international communities, people who wants to support Haiti and wants to be able to get a way out of the issues we are dealing right now. So we are calling on the international community, on the U.S. and Canada, to not side with one — with the political people in power, but to make sure that they are including the civil societies, the people of Haiti, who are able to take their future in hand and see how we can work together. At this point, we believe that Haiti needs support. Haiti needs to be stabilized. Haiti needs to have a sustainable ecosystem, so that people can lift, people can prosper — not just survive, but thrive.

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